Philadelphia Charging Bloggers $300 for Business License

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
45,698
0
0
Philadelphia Charging Bloggers $300 for Business License


Bloggers in the city of Philadelphia could find themselves on the hook for a $300 "business privilege license" if they have revenue-generating ads on their sites, even if they only bring in a few dollars a year.

Most blogs are labors of love. They're an outlet for frustration and creativity, an opportunity for people to babble about their favorite topic or vent about whatever's on their nerves and, for the vast majority of those who keep them, an absolutely terrible way to make money. The City of Brotherly Love has found a way to make some bucks from them, however. It's begun charging bloggers $300 for a "business privilege license" if they have ads on their sites, no matter how paltry the amount they bring in.

Marilyn Bess, who keeps the ehow.com [http://msphillyorganic.wordpress.com/], received a letter from the city in May demanding $300 for a license. She estimates she's brought in about $50 over the past few years. "The real kick in the pants is that I don't even have a full-time job, so for the city to tell me to pony up $300 for a business privilege license, pay wage tax, business privilege tax, net profits tax on a handful of money is outrageous," she said.

When she appealed the matter to the city, she added, "I was told to hire an accountant."

Sean Barry, the man behind Circle of Fits [http://seanoandjefe.blogspot.com/] on Blogspot, found himself in a similar situation. His blog carries two ads and has brought in about $11 in two years, but the city is nonetheless insisting that he pay for a license. "Personally, I don't think Circle of Fits is a business," he said. "It might be someday if I start selling coffee mugs, key chains or locks of my hair to my fans. I don't think blogs should be taxed unless they are making an immense profit."

But in the eyes of the city, if money is being made then the piper must be paid. Andrea Mannino of the Philadelphia Department of Revenue said that the mere presence of ads qualifies a blog a business, regardless of how much it makes. Furthermore, the city considers bloggers to be the same as freelance writers and requires them not only to pay for a license, but also to pay tax on their profits, on top of their regular state and federal taxes.

A proposed update to the law would eliminate the tax on the first $100,000 of profit but would still require bloggers to purchase a license. City Councilor Bill Green, one of the council members who put forth the proposal, suggested that bloggers who didn't want to cough up $300 for a lifetime business privilege license could instead opt for a $50 yearly plan.

Source: Hard|OCP [http://citypaper.net/articles/2010/08/19/blogging-business-privilege-tax-philadelphia]



Permalink
 

RogueDarkJedi

New member
Dec 28, 2008
224
0
0
As a blogger myself, I think this is a terrible idea. Everyone knows that ads very rarely pay out, and even then it's not enough to actually buy anything (except maybe some food).

What an idiot.

Edit: Since most free blog services put ads on the page, wouldn't you then have to pay for a license (even if it is the host's ads and not yours)? The city would be silencing your right to free speech. Or does it not work that way? Either way, this law will probably not last very long.

Edit 2: You can't have your own ads on your Wordpress.com blogs, unless you get 25k+ page views/month or whatever (as a part of Ad Control [http://en.support.wordpress.com/advertising/]). As both linked blogs are on free hosts, this means if you don't get a lot of page views to be in the Ad Control program (or pay for VIP, which I'm sure the lady with the wordpress.com blog doesn't have) then the city has stepped waaaaaaaaaay too far over the line and is violating the first amendment (I'm not a lawyer or providing legal advice, just assessing the situation).

Someone is in quite a bit of trouble.
 

Shru1kan

New member
Dec 10, 2009
813
0
0
This is absurd. Don't they know that the money the ads bring in probably just barely pay to keep the domain? Didn't realize simple hobbies were so damned expensive.
 

CoverYourHead

High Priest of C'Thulhu
Dec 7, 2008
2,514
0
0
Oh that's just pathetic. As far as I know, most bloggers use whatever small revenue generated from the ads to pay to keep their website up, not to turn a profit. And then having to pay income tax as well is just silly.

It's like shutting down a kid's lemonade stand in the summer because they don't have a license, then taxing them.
 

Heart of Darkness

The final days of His Trolliness
Jul 1, 2009
9,745
0
0
...I did not realize that the economy is still this bad. When a city starts trying to wring out $300.02 from bloggers, of all people, then it's probably time for a city to fire their current accountant and get a new one.

Really, this is just insane. The City of Brotherly Love just got a little less brotherly--or more, depending on personal brotherly relationships.
 

cobrausn

New member
Dec 10, 2008
413
0
0
CoverYourHead said:
It's like shutting down a kid's lemonade stand in the summer because they don't have a license, then taxing them.
This happens more than you'd think. I'll refrain from an anti-bureaucratic rant.
 
Apr 28, 2008
14,634
0
0
CoverYourHead said:
Oh that's just pathetic. As far as I know, most bloggers use whatever small revenue generated from the ads to pay to keep their website up, not to turn a profit. And then having to pay income tax as well is just silly.

It's like shutting down a kid's lemonade stand in the summer because they don't have a license, then taxing them.
Reminds me of that Boondocks episode...

Anyway, this is just stupid. As others have said, the ads are there just to keep the site running. They're not there to turn a profit. Asking them to pay so much for something so small is just stupid.
 

Worgen

Follower of the Glorious Sun Butt.
Legacy
Apr 4, 2020
11,718
1,062
118
Gender
Whatever, just wash your hands.
wow this is beyond moronic, seems like a good way around it is to just pull the ads tho and tell them to fuck off
 

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
45,698
0
0
CoverYourHead said:
Oh that's just pathetic. As far as I know, most bloggers use whatever small revenue generated from the ads to pay to keep their website up, not to turn a profit. And then having to pay income tax as well is just silly.

It's like shutting down a kid's lemonade stand in the summer because they don't have a license, then taxing them.
that's actually exactly how it sounds =S

i don't really think philadelphia is going to get a lot of money out of this licensing thingy. i think bloggers in philadelphia will just go screw it, and stop blogging.

how do they check this anyways? do they have like, some employee that surfs the web all day looking for blogs from philadelphia? Oo
 

RogueDarkJedi

New member
Dec 28, 2008
224
0
0
Serris said:
CoverYourHead said:
Oh that's just pathetic. As far as I know, most bloggers use whatever small revenue generated from the ads to pay to keep their website up, not to turn a profit. And then having to pay income tax as well is just silly.

It's like shutting down a kid's lemonade stand in the summer because they don't have a license, then taxing them.
that's actually exactly how it sounds =S

i don't really think philadelphia is going to get a lot of money out of this licensing thingy. i think bloggers in philadelphia will just go screw it, and stop blogging.

how do they check this anyways? do they have like, some employee that surfs the web all day looking for blogs from philadelphia? Oo
Tax filings. While the escapist doesn't say this, you can read more of the story here [http://citypaper.net/articles/2010/08/19/blogging-business-privilege-tax-philadelphia].
 

Treblaine

New member
Jul 25, 2008
8,682
0
0
Law is always lagging behind technology.

This flat-rate fee was clearly written into law with the idea that the only businesses that could possibly exist would have revenue and spending easily in thousands of dollars, and failed to consider how new technology would allow "businesses" that barely generate $100 and hardly cost anything to actually run.
 

Dr. wonderful

New member
Dec 31, 2009
3,260
0
0
Woah wait a hot second.

We have to get a permit to actually blog who Ads only pay 11-15 dollars.

Anyone, be thankful that you don't live here.
CoverYourHead said:
It's like shutting down a kid's lemonade stand in the summer because they don't have a license, then taxing them.
That actually happen here.
 

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
45,698
0
0
Politicians are obviously unfamiliar with the term: business. As it stands, that amount of money is I think barely enough to keep their blog running. 99% of the time, the bloggers would have to pony up money themselves to keep the blog running. So how are they going to afford 300 bucks if they pump the gained money back in to their blog?
 

Cynical skeptic

New member
Apr 19, 2010
799
0
0
They tried to do something similar in North Carolina. They tried to tax affiliate marketing. Every company with an affiliate marketing program simply dropped everyone in North Carolina and everyone who made a living off affiliate marketing moved to another state.

Can't tax the internet, bro.
 

Imper1um

New member
May 21, 2008
390
0
0
Heh, okay, so everyone moves out of Philadelphia, or hosts the server on an external server outside of Philly, problem solved. Way to go, idiots.

Silly lawmakers, intelligence is not for you!
 

CitySquirrel

New member
Jun 1, 2010
539
0
0
I hope someone challenges this, although it may be all legal beagle as far as the written law goes. Also, I wonder what qualifies for a "blog"... do they mean any website that runs ads? A webcomic?
 

gl1koz3

New member
May 24, 2010
931
0
0
This is a terrible idea and a great example of how overblown has the government become... and not only the U.S.

Not enough money, oh government? Lose some fat.
 

Uber Waddles

New member
May 13, 2010
544
0
0
Poll taxes were made illegal because they restricted voters rights.

This is no different. It can be seen as a way to restrict freedom of speech. So it will be over-turned.

A blog is not a specific business, and even if it was it is located on the Internet, not Philidelphia. It will never hold up.
 

KaiRai

New member
Jun 2, 2008
2,146
0
0
Or you could just not pay and stop blogging?

I'm pretty sure this is extortion anyway.
 

jasoncyrus

New member
Sep 11, 2008
1,564
0
0
Technically it is completely illegal because since its a personal blog it can't count as a business. You arn't charging people to view it niether are you making an official wage from ad revenues, they are closer to donations rathr than payouts.

PLUS:

I doubt the blog servers are hosted in philidelphia so technically they can't demand you cough up because you arn't actually publishing anything in philidelphia...
 

fozzy360

I endorse Jurassic Park
Oct 20, 2009
688
0
0
This is just one example of the complete disconnect between government and reality...and logic. Seriously, how in the hell can they call a blog a personal business? How? This reminds me of this little situation in Los Angeles where small business owners have to purchase a permit costing a few hundred dollars in order to have signs on their storefront windows.
 

subject_87

New member
Jul 2, 2010
1,426
0
0
...Okay, my hometown has now gone completely insane.

But hey, we still have the cheesesteaks.
 

pneuma08

Gaming Connoisseur
Sep 10, 2008
401
0
0
Way to staunch developing technology, Philly!
RogueDarkJedi said:
As a blogger myself, I think this is a terrible idea. Everyone knows that ads very rarely pay out, and even then it's not enough to actually buy anything (except maybe some food).

What an idiot.

Edit: Since most free blog services put ads on the page, wouldn't you then have to pay for a license (even if it is the host's ads and not yours)? The city would be silencing your right to free speech. Or does it not work that way? Either way, this law will probably not last very long.
Yeah, it doesn't really work that way. You have the right to not be censored, not the right to put it on the internet. Same with the guy who was talking about poll taxes, those are illegal because one has a right to vote, and if they can't afford to vote because of taxes then the state is basically stripping peoples' rights. It's different because access to the internet - let alone having a presence on the internet - is certainly not a fundamental right.

While not illegal, what this legislation will do is staunch technology. People in Philadelphia will stop blogging or move out of the city rather than buy an overpriced license. Philadelphia blogging will go down, and Pennsylvania revenues will not see any significant increase. In fact, it's possible that the city won't see a single cent from this initiative since all bloggers have to do is move to a nearby suburb to escape taxation - and if this happens enough, the city may even see a decrease in revenue since they're no longer taxing those people for housing.

It just doesn't make sense. I have no idea how this could possibly benefit the city.
 

Kavic86

New member
May 28, 2010
68
0
0
Yeah, this is what I would do. I won't pay and I'd take it to court. Yes that 300 turns into 3000 or more but it will stop this mess in its tracks I'd be willing to take the hit so that countless others don't get forced into throwing 300 bucks away for a licence they don't need. Another thing they need to do is get a large group of bloggers together and head to the court house and start duking it out and get this stupid law removed.
 

Ninonybox_v1legacy

New member
Apr 2, 2008
1,974
0
0
damnit....our state used to be so good at keeping things on the downlow.....now where hiching our skirts up and screaming for attention.....if you will excuse me saying so.
 

For.I.Am.Mad

New member
May 8, 2010
664
0
0
Luckily I live in Jersey. South Jersey, the real New Jersey. I thought Philadelphia was trying to become the epicenter of tech on the east coast, you're not helping with this stupid scheme. Hmmm, tomorrows papers should be interesting.

Anyway, GO PHILLIES!!!! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!
 

The Rogue Wolf

Stealthy Carnivore
Legacy
Apr 3, 2020
11,542
989
118
Stalking the Digital Tundra
Gender
✅
Unfortunately, Philadelphia has spent decades running itself into the ground with crooked politicians, scandals, corruption and nepotism. (I should know; I grew up in New Jersey, where state government tries very very hard to be even worse.) It wouldn't surprise me if this was a desperate money grab to help prop up the city coffers. Drowning man, floating stick, et cetera. I mean, apparently for next year's budget, the mayor is proposing a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on "sugary drinks" and a $300 yearly trash fee.
 

For.I.Am.Mad

New member
May 8, 2010
664
0
0
The Rogue Wolf said:
Unfortunately, Philadelphia has spent decades running itself into the ground with crooked politicians, scandals, corruption and nepotism. (I should know; I grew up in New Jersey, where state government tries very very hard to be even worse.) It wouldn't surprise me if this was a desperate money grab to help prop up the city coffers. Drowning man, floating stick, et cetera. I mean, apparently for next year's budget, the mayor is proposing a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on "sugary drinks" and a $300 yearly trash fee.
What are you talking about, taking over Atlantic City was a great idea.
 

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
45,698
0
0
They are screwing over the middleman but let all these bankers get away with their bullshit non-justified wages.

Sure. Sure.
 

Ih8pkmn

New member
Apr 20, 2010
702
0
0
wow. The internet is going to be fast running out of facepalm pictures if this kind of thing keeps happening.

Am I the only one seeing the Irony in that an outrageous tax like this is being posted in Philidephia, the same city where this kind of thing was protested 200 years ago?

I just hope my relatives aren't affected. I have family in the City of Brotherly Bureaucracy, but I don't know if they blog.

Either way, I smell a class-action suit.
 

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
45,698
0
0
Wow... what cunts. Whats next? Gonna try to charge kids mowing lawns for pocket money?
 

dietpeachsnapple

New member
May 27, 2009
1,273
0
0
*ponders this*

A billboard... taking up physical space... on city property... being rented out...

THAT is a business, definitely.

Hmmm...

A child on a street corner selling lemonade... Why is this NOT a business?

...

The internet provides opportunities to make money, and when adults make money, we consider them responsible for that income. However, restricting the methods of acquiring income can divest the affluent of desires to take risk and engage in innovative behaviors. In this case, the permits necessary to 'do business,' are far higher than those involved would ever make in the process.

What are the solutions?

Reduce the cost of permits for everyone? Well, the state needs that money for services and employee wages.

Create exempt categories? Perhaps, 'artists,' are liberated from these restrictions. However, this business wasn't art, it was the sale of advertisement space based on commission.

Perhaps a rebate system: if the proposed company does not make more per year than the cost of the permit, the cost of the permit is refunded.

Lastly, and perhaps least fair: the bloggers could ditch the advertisements and accept that they cannot earn money for their blogging behaviors without sponsorship.
 

Aenir

New member
Mar 26, 2009
437
0
0
...are they insane? Why not tax kids running lemonade stands then? They're making money, aren't they? Who cares if its for charity, there's money!
 

Eclectic Dreck

New member
Sep 3, 2008
6,662
0
0
Imper1um said:
Heh, okay, so everyone moves out of Philadelphia, or hosts the server on an external server outside of Philly, problem solved. Way to go, idiots.

Silly lawmakers, intelligence is not for you!
The problem with this plan is that the location of the server has no impact on the fee as it is based upon the location of the proprieter of the "business", and not the disposition of their assets.
 

randomsix

New member
Apr 20, 2009
773
0
0
gl1koz3 said:
This is a terrible idea and a great example of how overblown has the government become... and not only the U.S.

Not enough money, oh government? Lose some fat.
Too true unfortunately, and I would guess that most of the people making these laws have little to no familiarity with the environment they effect.
 

Andy Chalk

One Flag, One Fleet, One Cat
Nov 12, 2002
45,698
0
0
This is a bad joke right? This isn't true right? I mean... they really can't be this inhumanly stupid right? ...right?
 

WhiteTigerShiro

New member
Sep 26, 2008
2,366
0
0
Andy Chalk said:
A proposed update to the law would eliminate the tax on the first $100,000 of profit but would still require bloggers to purchase a license. City Councilor Bill Green, one of the council members who put forth the proposal, suggested that bloggers who didn't want to cough up $300 for a lifetime business privilege license could instead opt for a $50 yearly plan.
I'm surprised no one has comment on this yet. What a fucking douche. Seriously, it's like he's out to win the Biggest Douche in the Universe contest. Here we have bloggers complaining about having to pay $300 for a business license when the ads bring-in less than $10 a year, and he's telling them that one solution is a plan that costs $50 a year? Honestly? Did he listen to himself as he was speaking, or was he just kind of going in auto-mode and spitting-out some pre-written garble?

He seriously could not have missed the point more if, as Yahtzee once put it [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/20-Silent-Hill-Origins], he had fired in the wrong direction, and the point was in another country all-together. Yes, I agree with the bunch that are saying one solution is to just pull the ads and/or stop blogging, but you guys grasp the point of this just about as well as Bill Green up there.

I'm hoping that there's a big law suit about this and the city has to pay-out for grieving innocent citizens for something as simple as keeping a blog.
 

Starke

New member
Mar 6, 2008
3,877
0
0
Uber Waddles said:
Poll taxes were made illegal because they restricted voters rights.

This is no different. It can be seen as a way to restrict freedom of speech. So it will be over-turned.

A blog is not a specific business, and even if it was it is located on the Internet, not Philidelphia. It will never hold up.
Legally it's quite different, and there's a constitutional amendment eliminating poll taxes (off the top of my head, I think it's the 18th (whichever one came between the establishment and repeal of prohibition)). That said, this quite clearly a free speech issue, (with a possible side of interfering in interstate commerce).
Judas Iscariot said:
Wow... what cunts. Whats next? Gonna try to charge kids mowing lawns for pocket money?
Shh... don't give them any ideas.
 

samsonguy920

New member
Mar 24, 2009
2,921
0
0
Way to forget your roots, Philadelphia. The day Boston tries this dick move would be the day I know this country isn't what it should be anymore.
On the upside, bloggers have another thing to blog about now. The revolution will be blogged.
[sub]Couldn't help myself.[/sub]
 

Weaver

Overcaffeinated
Apr 28, 2008
8,977
0
0
Part of me wonders why this wouldn't just fall under general income tax.
Flat fees are a really stupid way to deal with this.
 

Seventh Actuality

New member
Apr 23, 2010
551
0
0
The words "lawful stupid" spring to mind here. These laws were never designed with bloggers or New Media in mind - either update them or don't apply them at all. If the only reason for something is "there's a law" then there clearly shouldn't be one.
 

Serrenitei

New member
Jun 15, 2009
35
0
0
The Rogue Wolf said:
Unfortunately, Philadelphia has spent decades running itself into the ground with crooked politicians, scandals, corruption and nepotism. (I should know; I grew up in New Jersey, where state government tries very very hard to be even worse.) It wouldn't surprise me if this was a desperate money grab to help prop up the city coffers. Drowning man, floating stick, et cetera. I mean, apparently for next year's budget, the mayor is proposing a 2-cent-per-ounce tax on "sugary drinks" and a $300 yearly trash fee.
The sugary drink tax is thanks to Pittsburgh Mayor, Luke Ravenstahl as he is pushing something very similar in Pittsburgh. The 'brilliant' mind behind the attempted Pittsburgh Higher Ed tax (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/pittsburgh/s_652506.html).

Pittsburgh's government is woefully inept, but I'll keep my biting remarks about the competency of Ravenstahl to myself. Looks like Philly is following suit.
 

dthree

Hey!
Jun 13, 2008
165
0
0
Can't you just get a P.O. Box outside the city and register your "business" address there?